Hauraki Rail Trail
The section from Thames to Te Aroha of this ride, which stretches 160 kilometres from Kaiaua in the north to Matamata, home of Hobbiton, in the south, will take in four small towns over three days. Once a gold-mining town, visitors can tour an underground mine in Thames before cycling to Paeroa along the paved track through farmland. Perhaps stop at the cheese factory along the way.
Paeroa, famous for its 7-metre high L&P bottle (a lemon juice and Paeroa Springs carbonated mineral water drink that was dreamed up here), is also known for its antique shops. Further down the trail, Karangahake Gorge is the most picturesque section of the route. Walk the Windows Walk loop at Karangahake where holes are blasted in the sides of tunnels giving river and gorge views. The trail traverses a one-kilometre tunnel, follows a river and passes gold-mining relics and Waikino Station Café. Catch a vintage train from here to Waihi, or ride to this popular summer beach spot. Perhaps visit a working mine with Waihi Gold Mine Tours. You’ll traverse more farmland on the way to Te Aroha, a town popular in the early 20th Century due to its hot springs’ apparent healing properties. Recuperate in the Te Aroha Mineral Spas or pools.